Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Wargames Supply Dump Falconeers

    Posted By on July 22, 2016

    In my continuing effort to reduce the amount of unpainted lead in the war room, I have been trying to knock out at least ten figures a week, despite work, family commitments, and gaming / play testing time.  This week I finished nine “Falconeers” from the Dirk Garrison line at Wargames Supply Dump.  These are obviously inspired by the Hawk Men in the Flash Gordon comics and serials.

    There is nothing fancy about them, from a painting perspective.  I painted them in blues, thinking that sort of looked like the bottom of a WWII airplane.

    Theme or Mechanics?

    Posted By on July 21, 2016

    I read a post here in which Peter Schweighofer was musing about which comes first, theme or mechanics.  As he said in his post, theme gets people to the table, but mechanics keep them coming back.  As a good blog post should, it got me thinking.  Certainly, I have signed up for games at conventions based on the event description, theme, scenario, or historical period.  Many times I have been disappointed by a game with a terrific theme that uses a set of plodding and pedantic rules and walk away thinking about the four hours of my life I’ll never get back.  That is an example of what Peter is describing in his blog post.

    I am always in search of the next project.  For me, the answer to this “chicken or the egg” question is “it depends.”  I think you need to match the right mechanic to the right theme.  A light-hearted theme doesn’t fit well with a set of detailed mechanics.  While many are doing it, I think that some periods and scales do not fit will with mechanics that are too simplistic.  (Simplistic is not the same as simple.)  So I often keep a set of mechanics percolating in my head, but instead of cramming that mechanic into my historical interest of the moment, I keep them in reserve for when they will be a good fit for a new period.

    I am always thinking about new mechanics.  I don’t find a mechanic and then build a game around it, however.  Often I think about a mechanic for a couple of years, often while running.  The card-based mechanic that I use in Combat Patrol(TM), for instance, has been percolating for over 30 years.  I first saw something like it in the late 1980s.  I tried it again in the mid 1990s with an abortive ACW skirmish design, called Stealin’ Chickens for Gen’l Lee.

    I have been thinking about a dice-progression mechanic in which modifiers change the size of the die, not the die roll.  In such a scheme, my “base” might be a d8, but if I get a +2 for some reason, that means I am rolling a d12.  What I like about a single opposed die roll mechanic with a dice progression is that if one player is rolling a d4 and the other a d24, there is still a chance, albeit a small one (6%), for the d4 player to succeed.  Such a mechanic generally breaks as soon as you pass d12.  Each next higher sized die adds 1 to the expected value of the die.  I am being a little sloppy in my terminology here, but you can think of the “average” roll on a die as the sum of all the faces divided by the number of faces on the die.  As an example, the expected value of a d10 is (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10)/2 = 5.5.  For common dice, you can that a shortcut of adding the highest and lowest face and dividing by 2.  So the expected value with a d10 is 5.5; for a d12, 6.5; for a d8, 4.5.  That’s all well and good, but what happens if you are at d12 and have to apply a +1.  Some people will have you roll multiple dice.  The problem with that is that one die gives you a uniform distribution, but the more dice you roll the more likely you are to have a strong central tendency, as a plot of all possible die rolls starts to approximate a normal distribution.  Sometimes that’s fine.  In fact in Santa Anna Rules! and Wellington Rules!, I used a d20 (uniform distribution) to approximate a normal distribution on purpose.  But with a dice progression scheme, I think rolling multiple dice breaks the elegance of it.  Also what two dice would you roll to get an expected value of 7.5?  8.5?  An option is to “cap out” out at d4 and d12, but I don’t think this gives you enough variance.  Recently I found a company that makes uncommon dice, so I have d14, d16, d18, d22, and d24 to add to the normal d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20.

    If you are interested, here is a table I worked up that describes the attackers chance of winning (rolling higher than the defender, ties going to the defender) based the type of dice each are rolling.  (The table is not symmetrical because of the ties.)  (This is the kind of analysis I think a good game designer should do.  I don’t think most of the “buckets full of dice folks” look at central tendency and probabilities.)

    So this is an example of a mechanic that is percolating and waiting for me to get interested in a historical period where this might be useful.  I was thinking about some sort of small-scale skirmish / pseudo role-playing game, perhaps gladiators.  My attack attribute says I am a d10, and your defense attribute is a d8.  But you have a shield, which is a +2.  I am slightly wounded, which is a -1.  So now for my attack, I am rolling a d8, and you are rolling a 12.  I have a 29% chance of success.

    I have been thinking about players searching around the table for the right die.  The search for the right die might work against the speed of play desired in a dice progression mechanic.  Most of us can pick out the normal polyhedral dice from across the table through years of familiarity.  The newer dice tend to look very similar and may be difficult to distinguish.  I can see players not liking having to hunt around the table in the heat of battle.  As I rounded up the dice for this mechanic — for the time in which the right period provides a muse, and there is a good fit between that period and this mechanic — I made sure that each die type is a standard color.  D14s are all green.  I would have liked the colors to follow a coherent color scale, but the non-standard dice come in limited colors.  The best I could do was ensure that each die type is a different color.

    I was reading one of the Wally Simon books that have been published by On Military Matters.  In one of the articles he describes the difficulty of getting two units to stop shooting at each other once their lines halt.  This was echoed in the Nosworthy books and showed up as an optional rule in Wellington Rules.  I have been mulling over a mechanic for an 18th or 19th century battle game that uses an action, reaction, reaction, reaction mechanic, not unlike Ed’s Two Hour War-games’ chain reaction system.  My worry is that several players may be sitting around watching two people “do stuff.”  This brings up another point.  I will often come up with an idea for a mechanic and then spend the next couple of years thinking about all its drawbacks and how to address them.  This is what I did with the card activation scheme in the Look, Sarge, No Charts(TM) family of rules as well as in Combat Patrol(TM).  Every mechanic has pros and cons.  Do the pros outweigh the cons?  Are there ways to mitigate the cons?

    I have long wanted to create a jousting game that was interesting enough that you are interested in playing more than once.  Most use some sort of mechanic in which I choose my attack and you choose your attack (and perhaps defense) and then we ride toward each other.  Sometimes there is a mechanic that affects the outcome of the run based on impetus.  These games are fun for an hour or so between other games or as a filler at the end of the night when the main even ends early.  But they quickly become repetitive and boring.  I’ve collected many different sets of rules, and they are more similar than they are different.  I’ve been tinkering with the idea of using the diagram of a finite state machine to enable players to try to react to what they are seeing the other player doing as they run down the list.  The idea is something like this:  I initially had my lance high, but I see that you have your shield high.  From a high position, I can adjust my lance to medium high or medium left.  The finite state machine doesn’t have a transition from high to low.  You know that I see that your shield is high.  You have the option to keep your shield high or move it to medium.  What will I do?  Staying the same might mean that my defense if more effective, but it might be the wrong defense.  Moving might give me a better defense, but since I moved, I would get some negative modifier, since I was not “set” the whole time.  I might even combine this with a dice progression scheme as described previously.  This is an example of the theme in search of just the right mechanic.

    My point of this rambling is that while mechanics and theme are both very, very important, you have to match the right mechanic to the right theme.  You don’t want to sit down to play a “serious” war-game and find that mechanics are like Munchkin.  (I like Munchkin, but you don’t want goofy artwork and silly double entendre when you are repeating Leipzig.)  Similarly, you don’t want to sit down to a Dr. Who game and find that you are tracking detailed physical damage (e.g., that bullet nicked Amy’s spleen, ricocheted off of something and exited between the third and four rib on the right side), ammunition usage (e.g, you have 9 bullets left in your 9mm automatic), fatigue, or a dozen other details.

    In a couple of years, I plan to start on a project for the American Revolution.  (I have a few other projects to clear from the painting table and the game design queue first.)  I have been thinking about doing it in 10mm so that you can do the major battles on your kitchen table.  On the other hand, the sizes of the units are so small and vary so widely, that 25mm/28mm might be better.  When the time comes, I’ll start by reading several books that describe the Revolution at the tactical level.  Then I’ll go to a couple of conventions and play every RevWar game I can find to first see if there is a set of rules I like.  Maybe I’ll just use Brother Against Brother by Herb Gundt or an adaptation of Wellington Rules.  If not, then I will begin thinking about the period.  What are the salient ideas that make RevWar different from the wars that immediately preceded or followed it?  What mechanics can best bring out those ideas?

    So, is it theme or mechanics that are important?  Both are equally important, but it is more important that the mechanics and theme fit together.

    HAWKs Games for Kids at Historicon 2016

    Posted By on July 18, 2016

    Most games put on by the HAWKs are kid friendly, but we often dedicate a table in the HAWKS room to games specifically targeted at younger gamers.  This year we put on three of them.

    The Dragon is Dead

    A group of kids playing in Dave's "The Dragon is Dead" game

    A group of kids playing in Dave's "The Dragon is Dead" game

    Dave ran a game using Blood and Swash from the Big Battles for Little Hands book.  A dragon has been slain on a remote island.  Before the official troops arrive, the “government” has issued six exclusive contracts to bands of fearless treasure hunters to gather as much treasure as possible.  The kids ran round the table fighting each other and looking for caches of goodies.

    Another shot of "The Dragon is Dead" game

    Another shot of "The Dragon is Dead" game

    A view of the other side of the table

    A view of the other side of the table

    I don’t which kid won the game, but they all seemed to have a really good time.

    Armies for Kids Project

    Getting ready for the Armies for Kids game

    Getting ready for the Armies for Kids game

    The showcase event was our annual Armies for Kids Giveaway.  The game is restricted to kids 10 and younger.  This year it was a WWII game using Milk and Cookies Rules from Big Battles for Little Hands.  The paper houses you see in this picture were lovingly hand crafted by Chris Johnson, as were the hills.  The figures and tanks had been donated to the HAWKs.  Through a number of painting seasons we painted and based the units.

    Plotting their next moves

    Plotting their next moves

    Milk and Cookies Rules were written for kids as young as five years old.  It has all the basic elements:  movement, fire, and morale.  It is written for periods ranging from ancient warfare to WWII.  Units consist of four bases.  The rules use six-sided dice.  There are sometimes saves if the target unit is in cover.  Pretty straightforward stuff.  The game lasts about 90 minutes.

    Concentrate!

    Concentrate!

    The young man in the black shirt spent a fair amount of time marching and countermarching with his tanks, but he seemed to have a great time.

    Nah! They aren't having ANY fun.

    Nah! They aren't having ANY fun.

    The girl on the right was probably her side’s MVP.  At one point she had troops in both of the two buildings in the middle of the table, which was the objective of the game.  While she was eventually driven out of the far one, she remained focused on the objective throughout the game.  She reminded me of my own daughter who when she was younger would often win at these convention games — and games not set aside for kids — by staying focused on the objective.

    When the game is over, the kids take home the army they played with during the game.  They also take home an opposing army, a set of hills, a set of buildings, and the rules and quick reference sheets.  They also get a tote bag full of other goodies, like paints, brushes, rulers, and dice.  That is what is mean by Armies for Kids.  When the game is over, they have everything they need to play war-games with their buddies at home.  Every once in a while we get some feedback from a parent that the armies from previous years are getting a lot of use.  We would love to hear from a teenager or young adult about their experiences after Armies for Kids.

    This has been a huge success.  You should see the looks on their faces when we give them all the goodies at the end.  Most of the parents know what’s coming, but the giveaway is a complete surprise to most of the kids.

    I think this is the sixth Armies for Kids Giveaway we have done as a club in as many Historicons.

    Some of the players in the Armies for Kids game

    Some of the players in the Armies for Kids game

    War Rocket

    After Armies for Kids, I ran another 90 minute kids’ game, using the War Rocket rules from Hydra Miniatures.  We had a lot of fun.  One side had to blow up some important satellites while the other side had to defend them.

    A second view of the War Rocket kids' game

    A second view of the War Rocket kids' game

    A "fur ball" during the War Rocket game

    A "fur ball" during the War Rocket game

    These kid-focused games take a lot of work and a certain amount of patience, but they are fun.  They are our attempt to do something about the “graying of the hobby” other than grousing about it on TMP.

    In addition to these three games, Geoff Graff also ran his ever popular Lego pirate game.  Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of that game.

     

    HAWKs Games at Historicon 2016

    Posted By on July 18, 2016

    In addition to the Combat Patrol(TM) games already noted in a previous post, the HAWKS ran many great games at Historicon 2016.

    Geoff Graff's WWII naval game

    Geoff Graff's WWII naval game

    Another view of Geoff's game.  Note the moving fog banks.

    Another view of Geoff's game. Note the moving fog banks.

    Dave Wood’s 28mm Game using Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts:  Napoleonic Wars:

    Dave's 28mm version of Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Napoleonic Wars

    Dave's 28mm version of Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Napoleonic Wars

    Another view of Dave's excellent figures

    Another view of Dave's excellent figures

    Setting up the game

    Setting up the game

    In this scenario the British, Spanish, and Portuguese were trying to capture two key bridges from the French.  I didn’t watch the scenario in detail, but I am pretty sure the the Allies beat the French.

    In the Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules large chart cards are replaced by labels on the backs of the bases and some special dice.  While a number of gamers have a visceral reaction to the labels, this greatly speeds play.  Those how have tried the rules seem to agree.  I make my labels in a more neutral color which makes them just a bit harder to read but improves the aesthetics greatly.

    In this picture you can seem some of Dave’s bases have the more neutral colored labels, and I don’t think they stand out at all on the tabletop.  They are certainly less visible than a bunch of large pink rectangular chart cards on the table.

    Eric Schlegel’s Hogwarts Themed Game

    Eric's Hogwarts themed game using (I think) a modified version of Blood and Swash or GASLIGHT

    Eric's Hogwarts themed game using (I think) a modified version of Blood and Swash or GASLIGHT

    Normally Greg Priebe runs the kinds of games that seem to attract the few female gamers at the conventions.  Since Greg wasn’t at Historicon 2016, one played in Duncan’s WWI game and my Warsaw Uprising game, two played in Don’s WWII Battleground game, and four played in Eric’s Hogwarts capture-the-flag game.  Eric has now taken the crown from Greg for the most women in a HAWKs game.  (Greg has had more in the past, but he wasn’t at Historicon to defend his crown!)

    I don’t really know anything about how the game ran, except that everyone seemed to be engaged to the end and seemed to be having fun.

    Don Hogge’s Battleground WWII Game

    Don ran a historical scenario in which the Americans were forcing a river crossing against German opposition.  Don had his usual Battleground WWII / Don Hogge groupies plus a few newcomers.

    Look, Kaiser, No Charts

    Duncan Adams ran two WWI games with his 1914 variant of Look, Sarge, No Charts, which takes element from both the WWII and ACW version of the rules in a very effective way.  The pictures below probably mix the two games, but you will get the idea…

    Duncan places dozens of small hill on his terrain to represent small folds in the earth and partially counteract gamer questions about “why can’t those guys see or shoot at those other guys.”  This is Duncan’s way to compensate for the “pool table” effect, and it works very well.

    Tekumel

    Bill Acheson organized a track of games based on M.A.R. Barker’s Empires of the Petal Throne / Tekumel mythology.  There were a couple of land battles and a naval battle.  This one was a gladiatorial style skirmish with six-inch tall action figures as proxies for the various strange Tekumel characters.  Bill is really good at repurposing toys for war-games.

    WWI

    Steve Gelhard ran a game using his popular WWI rules.  The terrain and figures looked great.  All the players seemed to really enjoy themselves.

    Modern Skirmish Games

    Mike Byrne used Force on Force to run a game based on modern Iraq.   Patrick Byrne also ran a modern Chechnya game on the rubbled city terrain, but sadly I didn’t get any pictures of that game.

    Orthez

    Duncan and Dave ran a 10mm Fate of Battle game based on a portion of the Battle of Orthez in the Peninsular campaign.  Duncan had spent a weekend making the specifically-shaped hill for the scenario.

    The blue masking tape does not represent a river.  This was used to mark the edge of the playing area.

    Muskets and Tomahawks

    Don ran a large Muskets and Tomahawks game.   These rules are easy to teach and learn.  The players seemed to really enjoy themselves.  I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures.

    HAWKs Room Summary

    I didn’t get pictures of every HAWKs game.  I didn’t arrive until later on Friday, and I was running four games back-to-back on Saturday.  As usual, I think the HAWKs made a strong showing and ran a lot of fun games.  The HAWKs room had 41 scheduled games (which is a bit light for us) run by 11 game masters.  I personally ran five; although, I had only planned to run four.  I don’t have the final numbers of events that were run at Historicon, but 40-50 (the HAWKs room average) usually constitutes between 5% and 10% of all the games at the show (not counting tournaments).  Rumor has it there were ~550 games, so let’s say the HAWKs ran 7.5% of the games at Historicon 2016.  If there were 2000 attendees, that means that 0.5% of the attendees (HAWKs) ran 7.5% of the games.  I consider that a strong showing for one club.  Few if any will show up in the glossy UK gaming magazines, but I think they were of at least average aesthetic quality and above average game quality.

    What is the HAWKs room?  For almost 20 years, we have run enough games at the big three HMGS East conventions to justify putting all our games in the same room.  This does not mean that there aren’t other games run by non-HAWKs in the room; it means that if you are looking for a fun game run by a HAWKs member, you don’t have to wonder where to look.  It also means that we can easily find each other if we are sharing terrain or playing aids or forget something.  Over the years we have developed a loyal following, and there are folks who spend most of their time at the conventions in the HAWKs room.

    If you like the HAWKs room, you will also enjoy our two-day mini convention in late September.  See www.hawks-barrage.org.

    Combat Patrol(TM) at Historicon 2016

    Posted By on July 18, 2016

    I ran three Combat Patrol(TM) games at Historicon 2016.  All turned out very well.  In two of the games there seemed to be someone who was struggling with the card-based mechanics, but after a couple of turns everyone was pretty much self sufficient and running the rules themselves.  I was relegated to the role of answering the occasional question.  In addition to my two Combat Patrol(TM) games, Eric Schlegel and Kurt Schlegel each ran a World War II game on our rubbled city terrain using the rules.  (We set up a rubbled city table on Friday and ran six different scenarios (with different rules) on the same terrain.)   Also, Duncan Adams ran a Napoleonic game using the rules.

    You can learn more about Combat Patrol(TM): World War II here.

    Battle Before the Battle

    Duncan Adams ran his very entertaining Napoleonic game using a modified version of Combat Patrol(TM).  These variants will be published in the near future as a supplement to Combat Patrol(TM): World War II.  In this scenario, the battle focuses on the two opposing skirmish screens between the two formed units.  One formed unit is a line of infantry.  The other is an advancing column.  The idea is to fight your way through the enemy’s skirmishers and pick away at the officers and men in the formed units.

    Killing enemy skirmishers score no points; that is merely a means to an end.    Points are scored for wounds and kills on the formed battalions.   The game was tied, with each side gaining twenty-six points after the planned seven turns.  The distribution of hits forced the French to take seven morale checks and the British to take five at the end of the game.  The Brits passed all of their morale checks indicating that the line held and was ready to receive the French charge.  The French passed the first six morale checks but then received a “pinned” result on the seventh one.  As interpreted at the battalion level, the French failed to close, so the game was declared a British victory.

    You can see that the formed units are represented by “blocks of troops.”  This is a convenient abstraction that keeps the focus on the skirmish fight, is easier than moving hundreds of figures that do not contribute to the focus of the game, and also acts as a game timer.  The column advances six inches per turn.  This means that the advancing skirmishers need to keep advancing or get bowled over.  When the column is close enough to the line, it shakes out in to line, and the game ends.

    Star Wars

    My first game was as a fill-in GM.  Greg Priebe was scheduled to run a Star Wars game using Combat Patrol(TM), but then work and family issues prevented him from attending Historicon.  I offered to run his Star Wars game, since I am familiar with the rules.  Greg had already done all the work to create the stats for the different Star Wars weapons.  We didn’t have to use the body armor rules, since Stormtrooper armor doesn’t seem to have any effect except to look cool.  The scenario involved a rebel smuggling ship that was shot down by the Empire and crashed into a city that had been destroyed by the Sith many years prior.  The game was three sided, with the Empire, rebels, and a “scum and villainy” faction landing forces to collect the valuable artifacts scattered around the table by the crash of the smuggling ship.  The scum and villainy faction even had a captured walker.  The game was quite fun, and all the players got a good introduction to the innovative mechanics of Combat Patrol(TM): World War II.

    A captured walker battles with surprised Stormtroopers

    A captured walker battles with surprised Stormtroopers

    Stormtroopers in good positions

    Stormtroopers in good positions

    The results of a hit in Combat Patrol(TM) can be a wound or incapacitation.  In the picture above, you can see a white band around one of the Stormtroopers.  This indicates that he has been wounded.  When the number of wounds equals or exceeds a figure’s Endurance attribute (three, in most cases), the figure is considered to be incapacitated and is removed from the game.  In this picture you can also see command dice next to two different Stormtrooper teams.  The one on the right is gray.  By convention, this is “normal.”  I use these gray dice, because they tend to blend into the background and do not distract from the aesthetics of the game.  The die on the left is black.  That team had previously taken one or more morale checks, and one of the results indicated that the unit was “pinned.”  To remind players, we place this black die on the unit. This indicates that the unit may only activate on black cards from the Activation Deck until it rallies.

    The game gets interesting...

    The game gets interesting...

    Though I am not sure I set up the scenario the way Greg had intended, the game was pretty even.  The scum and villainy faction found 8 treasures, the Empire 7, and the rebels 6.

    Stormtroopers advance

    Stormtroopers advance

    Rebels taking cover

    Rebels taking cover

    In this picture you can see some of the cards from the Action Deck in Combat Patrol(TM): World War II.  These cards are used to resolve movement, firing, damage, hit location, effects of high explosives, and morale.  As a result, there are no chart cards to clutter the the table.  The previous pictures were not staged or cleaned up for the photos.  This is what a table looks like during a game.

    Eric Schlegel’s Stalingrad Game

    Eric Schlegel ran a Stalingrad game in the rubbled city.  This scenario involves a German attack on a Russian-held area.  The Soviets are classed a Green troops for firing accuracy, which greatly restricts their effects.  They have an anti-tank gun, a minefield, and a submachine gun squad, which helps a bit.  In the play test a couple of weeks ago, the Germans successfully infiltrated and captured the required five buildings they needed.  Below are some pictures from Eric’s game.

    A long shot of Eric's table

    A long shot of Eric's table

    Kerfuffle at the Crossroads 

    Saturday morning I ran a World War II game.  This game involved an American paratrooper platoon defending two barricades that were blocking a German advance.  The Germans sent an understrength panzer grenadier platoon to take the town and dismantle the obstacles.

    The Americans plan their defense of the key roadblocks

    The Americans plan their defense of the key roadblocks

    The Americans had two squads of paratroopers.  Each team (or half squad) also had a captured panzerfaust.  The American squads had belt-fed M1919 machine-guns.  The Americans also had a bazooka team.  The attacking Germans had two SdKfz 251 halftracks, a Hetzer, two squads of panzer grenadiers, a panzerschreck team, and an extra light machine-gun.

    The town is a mix of Crescent Root buildings and the excellent Sally 4th corner shops building I blogged about previously.  The cobblestone area is from a craft store and came with the cobblestone pattern on it already.  Most of the trees are from Battlefield Terrain Concepts.

    A view of the courtyard and one of the key roadblocks

    A view of the courtyard and one of the key roadblocks

    We were a little light on players, so I took one of the German commands.  We decided that we couldn’t take the town in a head-on attack.  The Americans knew the direction we would approach and could sight in their weapons accordingly.  I took one squad, the machine-gun team, and the Hetzer.  My job was keep the Americans entertained.  JJ broke his squad into two half squads and put one on each of the halftracks.  Then as the game began, he pushed them down the right edge of the board to get behind the Americans.

    Jim's flanking maneuver

    Jim's flanking maneuver

    The first halftrack disgorged its infantry on the American flank, but the Americans were able to quickly relax and chewed up JJ’s infantry in the field from the second floor windows and the rear terrace of the corner shops.  The second halftrack continued past the bloodbath into a patch of woods behind the American position, where its infantry dismounted.

    The fight for control of one of the roadblocks gets close and personal

    The fight for control of one of the roadblocks gets close and personal

    In this shot, you can see that the American bazooka team is repositioning based on our flanking maneuver.  It eventually got a mobility kill on my Hetzer, which greatly limited its ability to contribute to the fight.

    A long shot of the table

    A long shot of the table

    In this shot you can see that the halftracks and infantry have gotten behind the Americans.  At this point, the Americans were surrounded.  The Germans had taken many casualties.  I had half my infantry gunned down in an open field trying reach the protection of the white walled area in the upper right of this picture, and JJ’s infantry took a bloody nose in the field surrounded by the hedges, but we had also severely attritted the Americans and had them surrounded.  At this point the Americans conceded.  I think the game was a big success.  Everyone had a good time, and the game might have gone very differently.  I am happy with the scenario.

    The Warsaw Uprising

    Saturday evening I ran a game based on the Warsaw uprising.  The Polish underground saw the Russians approaching Warsaw and rose up against the Nazi occupiers.  The Russians then stopped outside the city and let the Germans kill most of the Poles capable of resisting the Russians’ subsequent occupation of Poland.  This scenario involved the Germans trying to clear a path through this portion of the rubble city while the Poles were trying to inflict as much damage as possible and slow the German advance.

     

    A long shot of the table showing the rubbled city

    A long shot of the table showing the rubbled city

    The Poles began with six four-man teams on the table, and each turn they deployed one or more additional teams.  These reinforcements could pop up anywhere on the table, but they couldn’t be within line of sight of the Germans when they did so; someone would have to move at least once before shooting at each other.  The Poles did a nice job of trying to hold back the Germans, but luck didn’t go their way.  There was one Polish player who seemed to have a sniper in his team; every time he fired, he got a fatal head shot on a German.

    Again, note the clean look of this table with little table clutter to spoil the aesthetics of the game.  The table is a mix of Crescent Root, Amorcast, Miniature Building Authority, and scratch-built buildings.  The rubble piles are made from model railroad blast.  The ground cloth is from Cigar Box Battles.

    German halftracks turn the corner and head toward the opposite edge of the table

    German halftracks turn the corner and head toward the opposite edge of the table

    I thought I took more pictures of the table than this, but I was having some trouble with my camera.  In this picture you can see advancing German infantry, a dead Pole in the center of the table, and some other Poles in a rubbled building on the right.

    Summary

    All three games that I ran, the two that the Schlegels ran, and the one that Duncan ran were successful.  The players picked up the rules quickly, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  As mentioned previously, at first one or two people struggled with the unique mechanics of Combat Patrol(TM), but eventually they all got it.  Interestingly, the guys who seemed to have the most trouble were the ones who approached me after the game about how much they liked the system.

    Sunday at Historicon 2016

    Posted By on July 18, 2016

    Duncan's "Charted Seas" Game

    Duncan's "Charted Seas" Game

    Sunday morning tends to be pretty light at Historicon, Cold Wars, and Fall In.  A few years ago there was a push to add Sunday morning games.  The HAWKs responded.  We typically put on at least two Sunday morning games — which constitutes about half the scheduled games.  This year Eric ran his car race game using Jamie Davis’ Future Race rules and Duncan ran a WWII naval game, using his “Charted Seas” rules.

    A long shot of Duncan's "Charted Seas" game

    A long shot of Duncan's "Charted Seas" game

    Charted Seas uses the combat mechanic from Uncharted Seas, a modification of the activation mechanism from X-Wing, and ship data from the Axis and Allies collectable miniatures game.  I’m not all that interested in “modern” naval games, but this mashup really works well.

    Eric's car race game using Jamie Davis' Future Race rules

    Eric's car race game using Jamie Davis' Future Race rules

    Eric ran a car race game through the desert that, based on the whooping and hollering, was a huge success.

    A tight pack early in the game

    A tight pack early in the game

    If you haven’t played Future Race, you are missing out on a terrific game — and the only worthwhile thing to come from Star Wars Crapisode I.  Originally conceived to have pod races using Micro Machines pod racers, we have used the rules for air boats on the swamps, dog sled races, and flying carpet races — in addition to the pod races for which it was intended.

    Another view of the car race

    Another view of the car race

    While these games were going on, JJ, Don, and I played in a game of the 1978 Source of the Nile game (before it was licensed to Avalon Hill) run by one of the original authors.  We had a very good time.  My expedition got lost in the desert.  My guide and half my askari and bearers wandered off looking for food and water.  Then a freak storm struck the desert, and most the rest of my expedition ran off.  A rhino killed my last bearer, and hostile natives killed my last askari.  I wandered out of the jungle, dehydrated and babbling, with only my musket and notebook, but I still managed to eek our third place.  I haven’t played Source of the Nile in 25 years.  It definitely has an old feel to it, and I think it could benefit with an update to more modern mechanics, but it was a fun and nostalgic game.

    JJ and I had a chance to play Source of the Nile with one of the original authors

    JJ and I had a chance to play Source of the Nile with one of the original authors

    First Sample Card for Combat Patrol(TM): WWII Pacific Supplement

    Posted By on July 15, 2016

    I just received this first sample card from my artist.  I think the new, special deck for Japanese is going to look quite good.

    Working on a Japanese Action Deck for Combat Patrol(TM): WWII

    Posted By on July 14, 2016

    I have been working for a couple of months on Pacific War supplement for Combat Patrol(TM): WWII.  The supplement involves new morale results for Japanese units as well as special rules for banzai charges and suicide attacks on vehicles.  The new morale results have more unit results and fewer individual results to reflect the unique military cult culture of the Japanese Army in WWII.  These new morale results will be incorporated into special Japanese Action Decks.  The cards in this action deck are exactly the same as the other Action Decks except for the morale results.

    Examples of soldier hit location icons

    Examples of soldier hit location icons

    I went back to my artist and asked him to create new artwork for the Action Deck.  Again, the results will be the same as the other Action Decks, but I wanted the artwork to look Japanese.

    Examples of vehicle hit location icons

    Examples of vehicle hit location icons

    Examples of to-hit modifiers for new Japanese cards

    Examples of to-hit modifiers for new Japanese cards

    Examples of new Japanese cover icons for Action Cards

    Examples of new Japanese cover icons for Action Cards

    I really like the new artwork.  It is consistent in style to the original Action Deck, but it is definitely Japanese in feel.

    The Final Act

    Posted By on July 13, 2016

    This picture is really hard to see.  I drew it 30+ years ago in pencil on a piece of loose leaf paper.  This cartoon depicted a party of adventurers bursting into a room during a Tunnels and Trolls game.  I don’t remember why the one character had his face explode as the party entered, but I remember we laughed about it for days.  My buddy Ma’k Morin found this recently and sent it to me.

    Barrage 2016 Web Portal Goes “Live”

    Posted By on July 12, 2016

    The all new Web portal for Barrage 2016 has gone live for people to register as attended and GMs.  This year the folks who bring you the popular HAWKs rooms at the various HMGS conventions have expanded Barrage from one day to two days.  Take a look at the Web portal (www.hawks-barrage.org).  Come back frequently as new games and other content is added.